March 5, 2013
by Ariel Adams
With 2012 behind us we are trying to find stuff from last year that we forgot to cover. Not because it wasn’t cool, but you know, because we get busy. I was sad to find that I neglected to cover the Pilot Doublematic watch from Zenith – I even had some hands-on time with it. Zenith is partially to blame because until recently their communication with us “online journalists” was sort of sparse. They recently wised up so we hope to cover them with more frequency because I for one am a fan of what they are doing. I recently sat down with their CEO Mr. Dufour in Geneva and we chatted a bit about what’s going to be soon released.
Anyhow, back to the Pilot Doublematic. What I loved about this watch when I first got my hands on it was how it was able to cram together so many functions but still look decent and still be legible. I’ve found more and more that I have become a design snob. It isn’t enough to just cram a bunch of features together, they need to be attractively crammed together. And this watch does a lot, giving you the time, big date, world time ring, alarm and chronograph. I know, sort of over the top but we love it. zenith-watches.com
Now I know what you are thinking, “that is great and all, but I probably can’t afford it.” Well the good news is that prices around town for the Pilot Doublematic are just a bit more than a Rolex Submariner. More on the price later though. Zenith uses a nicely sized 45mm case in steel or there is an optional 18k pink gold model, and throws like a ton of crowns on it. Rather than making it look too silly, the various crowns and pushers look sorta cool – as though this is a watch with real purpose. The next question is then, ” do all of these complications fit together?” Good question. Let’s think about it, who needs a world time function and an alarm (among other things)? Well apparently pilots do, but who else? I would say travelers. The world time function is a given, and the big date is a convenience. The chronograph measures only 30 minutes so it isn’t good for tracking your flights, but you can use it to measure how long you’ve been in line at the airport. The alarm is good for waking you up, or reminding you to get to a meeting, get to your gate, or whatever. Sure your phone can do all of that, but if you felt strongly about that then you probably wouldn’t be reading a review of a mechanical watch on a timepiece blog.
When I first saw the Pilot Doublematic I was just sort of impressed that Zenith managed to put it all together. There wasn’t much precedent for the design and it was rather unexpected. To be honest, viewing “unexpected” watches from brands other than guys like Richard Mille is rare. There are only so many complications and ways to combine them. But the Pilot Doublematic was really something I didn’t see coming, and I can’t think of any other mechanical watches out there can combine these complications. But hell, I would hate to have to try and read or use this timepiece while intoxicated in any way.
The periphery of the dial is the city ring which is changeable via one of the left-side crowns. It works with the half black and half white 24 hour ring. This allows you to know the time (and whether it is day or night) in each of the 24 timezones. It is a great complication to have for anyone, but especially nice when you are traveling. Having a ring-style world timer almost makes you no longer want a standard GMT watch. While GMT watches can be pretty, their functionality is inferior to that of world timers because you can track 24 versus 2 timezones. And by track I mean actually do it in a legible manner.
The alarm uses the lower left-hand crown and three elements on the dial. The crown also combines a pusher. That pusher is to turn the alarm function on and off, which is indicated in a window near 9 o’clock. A red central hand is used to set the alarm, while Zenith placed a dedicated power reserve indicator (which goes from red to green as the power is wound up) exclusively for the alarm complication (as it has its own mainspring). You use the alarm crown to both wind that spring as well as set the alarm time.
Being El Primero-based means that the Pilot Doublematic more or less needed to have a chronograph function – even if it only has a 30 minute counter. Inside the watch is an in-house made Zenith caliber 4046 automatic El Primero movement that is made up of over 430 parts and still manages to have an over 50 hour power reserve. The rear of the watch has a sapphire exhibition case back with a view of the lovely movement – which is proudly industrial in its style. Zenith also uses a skeletonized rotor to give you a bit more of the view. While there is the gold version available. I think that the steel Pilot Doublematic is your best bet. It is too tool-cool to be in a precious metal material. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense like that. Overall a very unique piece that got and kept my attention. Retail price for the Zenith Pilot Doublematic is $13,200 in steel and $31,500 in 18k pink gold.
Technical specs from Zenith:
Pilot Doublematic steel version: 03.2400.4046/21.C721
Pilot Doublematic pink gold version: 18.2400.4046/01.C721
El Primero 4046, selfwinding
Total diameter 30 mm
Thickness 9.05 mm
Cadence of the balance 36,000 vph
50-hour power reserve
Central hours and minutes
30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock
Sweep seconds hand
Large date at 2 o’clock
Central alarm hand
Alarm on/off indicator at 8.30
Alarm power-reserve display at 7 o’clock
Polished and satin-brushed steel or pink gold
Diameter 45 mm
Water resistance 5 ATM
Sapphire crystal caseback
Matt black with Superluminova-enhanced hands and numerals or silver-toned with Superluminova-enhanced 5N numerals and hand
Alligator leather with hand-sewn topstitching, 18-carat gold pin buckle or folding clasp